Ivory Coast seek minor miracle at WCup

Last Updated: Jun 24, 2010, 12:50 PM IST

Johannesburg: Ivory Coast needs one of the
unlikeliest results in World Cup history if it is to prolong
its stay at the 2010 tournament.

The Ivorians retain just the slimmest of mathematical
chances of qualifying for the last 16 stage.

Sven-Goran Eriksson`s team has to beat already-eliminated
North Korea in Nelspruit in the final round of Group G matches
tomorrow -- but that`s the easy part.

At the same time Portugal has to lose to Brazil in Durban
-- not impossible.

And there also has to be a nine-goal swing in Ivory
Coast`s favour -- almost inconceivable.

"There`s one match to go and we owe it to ourselves to
win it and hope events go in our favour," said defender Guy
Demel, insisting The Elephants still retained hope of an
incredible outcome. "Nothing`s over yet."

World Cup history is not in Ivory Coast`s favour.

A one-goal loss by Portugal to five-time champion Brazil
would require the Ivorians to win by at least eight and in the
80-year history of the World Cup there have been just six
matches with an 8-0 scoreline or greater.

North Korea has been stung by its 7-0 defeat by Portugal,
and is eager to make up for that poor display against Ivory
Coast.

"Tactically speaking we fell apart," said North Korea
coach Kim Jung Hun, who took responsibility for the change in
his team`s formation at halftime that led to six second-half
goals from the Portuguese.

"Back home I believe that they will look at the next
game," Kim said. "We have one left. We will reinforce our
mental abilities and really work well."

Midfielder An Yong Hak said the mood in the locker room
"wasn`t good" following the Portugal match, which was the
first North Korea game abroad to be aired live prime-time on
state TV in the isolated country.

An said the Ivory Coast game is a chance to regain lost
pride in its first World Cup appearance in 44 years.

"We made a lot of mistakes that forced us to eat too many
goals," he said of the pounding by Portugal, "but we`ll try
our hardest to the end and do our best in the final game."

North Korea showed in its opening game, when Japan-born
striker Jong Tae Se set up Ji Yun Nam for a surprise goal in a
brave 2-1 loss to the mighty Brazil, that it can compete with
the world`s best.

Eriksson said earlier this week "to beat Brazil you must
be almost perfect," after his own team was outclassed by
football`s most successful World Cup team.

Ivory Coast will now need to be near-faultless against
North Korea if they are to win by the huge margin required and
it will have to chase goals with lingering doubts over the
fitness of its biggest attacking threat, captain and striker
Didier Drogba.

Drogba has played with a protective cast after breaking
his right arm in the buildup to the tournament and undergoing
hasty surgery to ensure his participation.

He scored what turned out to be a consolation goal in the
79th minute against Brazil but will need help from fellow
forwards like Salomon Kalou, Aruna Dindane and Gervinho
tomorrow after Ivory Coast failed to convert attacking
opportunities in its last game.

"We didn`t put our chances away and failed to make the
most of our counterattacks," said Kolo Toure.

"Those are the kinds of mistakes we have to avoid against
North Korea. We need to be more compact and above all do
better with our chances."

Bureau Report

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